My brother Jeremy Sarber posted some good thoughts recently about seeker friendly churches.  He concluded that

This model for the church begins with a misguided priority of simply getting warm bodies in the pews on Sunday. I do understand their reasoning. After all, Jesus said that heaven rejoices over every sinner that repents (Luke 15:7). Even so, the end result tends not to be the conversion of sinners, but the conversion of the church for the worse.

I heartily agree.  It seems clear to me that evangelism is not a purpose of the local church gathering; it is a byproduct.

christian outreach church

The church exists primarily “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:12).

Believers are commanded to gather together and “stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Some may argue that the purpose of the church was given in the Great Commission. In my opinion, the Great Commission is given to individual saints, and is part of the “work of the ministry” for which they are equipped when gathering with a local church.  I suppose that by extension, the Great Commission is a purpose of the universal church (all believers).

In addition, 1 Cor. 14:24 “But if . . . an unbeliever . . . enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;” assumes that the unbeliever’s entrance into a church is merely incidental. It does not suggest that believers should invite unbelievers, it simply suggests that unbelievers who happen to wander in may be convicted simply by the truth that is being communicated.  Can you see this scenario taking place in a seeker-friendly church?

A more subtle challenge exists for the missional church movement, who try to meet in small, non-threatening groups and interact with the lost on their turf as it were.  They too must be careful not to compromise their message by focusing too much on creating a “safe” environment for unbelievers.